In her salutatorian address, Crothersville High School senior Marissa Carter shared some important numbers about the Class of 2016.

Of the 29 members of the class, 38 percent had associate degrees before earning their high school diplomas, made possible through the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative.

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Seventy-six percent of the seniors are going to college, while 10 percent of them are going into the military. Also, 55 percent held a job during the school year.

But most importantly, Carter said, 100 percent of the class members will be successful as long as they shoot for the stars.

“Class of 2016, here’s my challenge to you,” she said Friday night during the school’s 120th graduation ceremony. “Set one goal for yourself. If you fail, have courage. Learn from it. Try again. When you reach that goal, don’t stop there. Set one more goal. I have no doubt that 100 percent of you have the ability to reach every goal on your way to success.”

Carter was one of 11 seniors who received associate degrees in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College.

Andrew Jackson was a part of that group, too, and he’s also among the high percentage of graduates moving on to college. He plans to attend Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and major in mechanical engineering.

Jackson said it meant a lot to have the opportunity to earn a college degree in high school.

“My brother went through it,” he said of the early college program. “He helped me prepare and get ready for what I would have to do. I knew I would save a lot of money along the way, and it’s a lot of time saved. It will cut two years off (of college). It helped me learn how to get used to it, rather than just having to jump straight in.”

Classmate Andrew Keith is among the small percent going into the military. In fact, July 30 will mark a year since he enlisted in the Army National Guard.

During the Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival last year, a recruiter stopped Keith and talked to him about the benefits of joining the National Guard. Keith learned he could earn college credits and money.

“It paid me real well, and if you sign up for eight years, you get 100 percent tuition,” Keith said.

Since swearing in, Keith has attended drills once a month, and he will take a physical fitness test and go through three phases — red, white and blue — to prepare for basic training. He is about a week away from starting basic training.

“Ever since I’ve been going to drills, I feel more comfortable, and they’ve prepared us,” he said.

After basic training, he will be stationed in Shelbyville and get the opportunity to work on diesel equipment, which ties in with his ultimate goal of becoming a diesel mechanic.

Keith, though, already has a head start on that career. In high school, he earned automotive mechanic and welding certifications through Ivy Tech.

Looking back on his decision to join the military, Keith said it was a good one.

“It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s really special,” he said. “You could ask me a couple of years ago, ‘Are you going to be in the military?’ I would have said, ‘No.’ But my papaw was in World War II, and I told my mom I wanted to be like him and follow in his footsteps.

“Here I am in the military, and it’s just amazing,” he said. “I got back from drills last weekend and went to go get something to eat and saw everyone, and I was like, ‘I’m serving the country.’”

Class valedictorian Torri Boldery earned her associate degree in high school and plans to attend college. A few weeks ago, she said she didn’t know where she wanted to go to college but has since made that decision. She still has yet to decide her course of study.

“Coming from someone who has a fear of procrastinating my plans, not knowing what will happen after Crothersville scares me — a lot,” she said during her valedictorian address. “And I know that I’m not the only one with the fear of the unknown.”

It’s the same fear the class members had while learning certain subjects in school, Boldery said. But since they were at graduation, they realized they made it through.

“We as a class went into the whole high school thing blind, with so many things that we were unsure of,” Boldery said. “But this last year of high school has been different. One thing that I’ve learned this year is not to be afraid of what you don’t know.”

Getting through the past four years with her classmates completely changed her perspective, Boldery said.

“I hope that you all remember that through the hardships, we prevailed,” she said. “Remember that although it was difficult for us all to get here today, to sit amongst the Class of 2016, we had to stand up after every single time we were pushed down. Today is proof to all of us that we can achieve despite whatever each of us has been through.”

As the class moves forward, Boldery said she has high hopes.

“I hope all of you choose to take on the unknown without hesitation,” she said. “I encourage you all to remember that you can get through anything and to use that motivation to get you wherever you want to be in life.”

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